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State senator introduces prison religious clothing bill

PIX Now -- Tuesday morning headlines from KPIX newsroom
PIX Now -- Tuesday morning headlines from KPIX newsroom 09:41

SACRAMENTO -- A new bill proposed in the state Legislature could grant religious protections for incarcerated people in California.

Senate Bill 309 would create a uniform state policy that provides clear guidelines on religious clothing, headwear and grooming for inmates.

"Incarcerated Californians maintain basic civil liberties while they serve their time," said state Sen. Dave Cortese, D-San Jose, who introduced the bill Monday. "SB 309 would ensure that Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and other religious minorities should preserve their right to religious dress and practice without harm or disruption."

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation currently has policies that mention the right to certain religious clothing and headwear, but those rules are limited to state-run facilities.

Individual local detention facilities have their own policies and procedures. That means that there is no guarantee that an inmate would be allowed to dress according to their religion from one detention facility to the next within the state.

"When a person enters into custody and they are stripped of their religious clothing, they are also stripped of their identity. No one should be forced to fight for their faith," said Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gomez Reyes.

A statement from Cortese's office said that studies show that allowing this form of religious exercise reduces violence and "other negative behaviors" in correctional facilities and lowers recidivism.

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